BY VENERANDA LANGA
JUSTICE minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday told Parliament that the Public Order Security Act (Posa) compels organisers of demonstrations to compensate for the loss of property and lives.
His charges followed pressure on government to show remorse over the August 1, 2018 and the mid-January killings of protesters by soldiers.
Ziyambi also admitted that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was supposed to inform Parliament promptly after deploying soldiers who brutally crushed last year’s August 1 post-elections violence, which left six civilians dead.
Mnangagwa, through Ziyambi, yesterday finally issued a statement in the National Assembly on the deployment of soldiers on the fateful day, which later resulted in him appointing the former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe-led commission to probe the shootings.
“I acknowledge that,” he said, in response to questions from MPs on the need for Mnangagwa to have briefed Parliament.
“I must indicate that if you go to Posa, there are civil liabilities that accrue to organisers of demonstrations. The issue of compensation; Posa is clear that the organisers of those riotous demonstrations must be held liable.”
Ziyambi read Mnangagwa’s statement in the National Assembly, which said the President’s authority to deploy was derived from section 213(1)(a) of the Constitution, and section 214(b)(i), which requires him to promptly inform Parliament of the deployment.
The statement indicated that it was the Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga who gave orders to soldiers during the operation.
The Justice minister said Matanga had promptly satisfied himself of the riotous situation that occurred in major cities, which violated the rights to life, human dignity, personal security, property rights, freedom of association, and other rights, as well as that the riots were criminal in nature.
He said after satisfying himself that the Zimbabwe Republic Police was unable to handle the riots which culminated in abuse of human rights and destruction of property, including police stations, Matanga, in terms of Posa, which gives him power to use his discretion, then requested the Defence minister to authorise the Defence Forces to assist the police to suppress the violent riots.
“His Excellency, having duly considered the Commissioner-General’s request, then authorised deployment of the Defence Forces to suppress riotous and disruptive conduct that pervaded the country,” Ziyambi said.
Opposition legislators then bombarded Ziyambi with questions, with Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) saying that when the soldiers were deployed, live ammunition was used.
“Can you confirm that the President exercised his powers to authorise use of live ammunition by the Defence Forces on armed civilians?” Chikwinya asked.
Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna (Zanu PF) then suggested that the opposition instigated the disturbances which caused the army to be deployed and, therefore, must be made to pay for properties destroyed.
Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure (MDC Alliance) asked Ziyambi to explain who was going to compensate for the loss of lives, given that innocent civilians going to work were killed.
“Even during former President Robert Mugabe’s reign, no one was ever shot in the streets and we never saw deployment of the army,” Madzimure said.
Mutasa South MP Regai Tsunga (MDC Alliance) said Ziyambi must also speak on the missing link of people that were alleged to have masqueraded as the army, while Nkulumane MP Kucaca Phulu said the Justice minister must explain what the cost of deployment was, the cost of the Motlanthe Commission inquiry to investigate the killings as well as why they hired people to investigate when there was the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), which could easily do the job.
“We could have saved a lot of money and the appointment of the Motlanthe Commission tends to have undermined the work of the ZHRC and overshadowed its role,” Phulu said.
Ziyambi refused to respond to any questions on the Motlanthe Commission, saying it had no relation to the President’s statement which was specifically on deployment of soldiers.
He said whenever Defence Forces were deployed to assist the police, they would be under the command of the police services and acting as if they were police officers.
“On (the) use of live ammunition, the law (Posa) is very clear of the steps that the Commissioner-General of Police took, and it is the Commissioner-General of Police’s command that will be followed by members of the armed forces,” he said.